Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The sun sets on Korea Yeosu Expo 2012

Korea's Yeosu Expo 2012 shut its gates for the last time on 12 August.

Here Executive Director John McGregor gives an overview.

Yeosu Expo 2012: An Overview

This year being an Expo year, I had the pleasure of visiting South Korea for Expo 2012, located in the pretty port town of Yeosu, on Korea's southern coast.

This is my sixth World Expo, and this is Korea's second, and it's good to see that the Korean Organising Committee, and the participants know what they're on about.

The setting for the Expo itself is abundant in beauty, nestled between hills and the coastline, and the Pavilions represent the latest in cutting edge architecture. The International Zone is compact and impressive; the Korean Corporate zone showcases the latest in theme park wizardry; and the theme Pavilions articulate the theme of the Expo : the World's Oceans, in a logical, informative, and innovative manner.

And one mustn't forget the star attraction and symbol of the Expo - the "Big O" - a 45-metre high O - the world's first floating performance stage - where the nightly multimedia and laser show takes place.

The flagship Korea Pavilion interestingly incorporates the nation's yin-yang taeguk in its modern architecture, and its presentation is a joy to behold, with two shows, incorporating the latest in digital projection technology with theatre, and details the historic relationship of Korea with the oceans. The main show in particular presents on a domed screen some of the challenges of climate change and how Korean technology will "bring water to the desert".

The International Zone had its surprises too, with the 415 metre long Electronic Digital Gallery heavenly sea being at the top of the list, to Nigerian gift shop boutiques, to a 4D theatre experience in Oman, a journey on an ice-breaker in Russia, photo opportunities with lifesaver Kangaroos in Australia, talking mermaids in Thailand, and personal greetings from the Secretary of State and President of the USA (as well as the grandson of Jacques Costeau) in the USA Pavilion, with fluent Korean speaking student Ambassadors that knew how to keep the crowds in their place as well as share a joke, and the narrated story of a boy survivor's account of the March 11 Tsunami in Japan. Indonesia and Mexico both featured impressive cinema presentations for their Pavilion, but for the most moving cinema presentation at the Expo one can't go beyond the United Arab Emirates Pavilion where we're transported to Dubai and a young boy's moving attempts to tackle climate change in a very practical and memorable way.

The theme Pavilions work hard to articulate the Expo's theme, and like many other Pavilions, its the interaction between ourselves and our fellow co-inhabitants on this planet which save the day. In the main theme Pavilion, its the friendship between a dugong and a young boy; in the Climate Change and Environment Pavilion we see - in real sub-zero temperatures - the story of a mother polar bear and her young son; and we're charmed by gifts from Russia - the two beluga whales in the Aquarium Pavilion - the largest in Korea.

And the Korean Corporate Zone wows audiences with superlative after superlative, with Lotte, LG, Samsung, Hyundai, SK Telecom, Posco and Caltex competing feverishly, with some features never seen at a World Expo before.

One arrives at the Expo seamlessly - 3 1/2 hours from Seoul by KTX directly to Yeosu Expo Station; the six-star MVL (More Valuable Life) Hotel looks after the official dignitaries, at the Expo's most southern point, and the Expo Town apartments, just a few metres away from the international zone houses the staff and participants in relative comfort and convenience. New highways, free wifi throughout the Expo site, and free City bus services for the duration of the Expo are ample proof that the Organisers - and City of Yeosu have thought and planned well to make access to the Expo as easy and convenient as possible.

Overall, Korea's Expo 2012 at Yeosu re-defines the model for an international specialised Exposition, and lifts the bar for future hosts - and participants.

We will see who will get the next International Expo - scheduled for 2017 - in a year or two - and Kazakhstan Astana and Belgium Liege have both used their Pavilions to showcase why their cities should host it - not to also forget mentioning the competition for Expo 2020.

In the meantime, we can wait for Milano 2015 - the next venue where the world next makes its stop - for the 2015 Universal Exposition - with the theme Food: Energy for Life.

It's now time to whet your appetite - thanks Yeosu for a great time and for your very friendly and helpful hosts, and see you in Milan!!

John McGregor is a six-time Expo veteran, having worked at Brisbane 88, Seville 92 and Taejeon 93, as a visitor to Aichi 2005, Shanghai 2010, and Yeosu 2012, and also attended the 2002, 2010 and 2012 Assembly of Expo Cities and Regions. He is now Executive Director of Foundation Expo '88, and co-hosts with Urso Chappell's ExpoMuseum the World's Fair Podcast.

Friday, August 17, 2012


Australia at this year's World Expo Yeosu Expo 2012 South Korea won the Bronze Medal for Creative Display at the Bureau of International Expositions Award Ceremony on Saturday 11 August.

The Pavilion, whose theme was "Australia: In Harmony with the Ocean" featured an innovative sculpture screen like ocean waves in the main show upon which images of Australia were projected, and visitors also had the chance for a photo opportunity with caricatured lifesaver kangaroos, an image which became viral on Facebook as a "must do" activity at the Pavilion.

The Commissioner for the Pavilion, Mr Kevin Nixon, attributed the success of the Pavilion due to its innovative approach. "We wanted to do something in the main show which hadn't been done before," he said. "The sculpture screen, which some have said looked like bird's wings, or ocean waves, did just that".

Visitors were also introduced to the indigenous relationship with the oceans and coastline at the entry to the Pavilion, with works by Torres Strait Islander Billy Missi, and a series of mimi poles marked out the space as a quintessential introduction to Australia.

A comprehensive Gift Shop and restaurant kiosk rounded out the Pavilion, where one could purchase Pavilion branded umbrellas, magnets, polo shirts amongst other items, and kangaroo and beef steak pies.

The Awards Ceremony, a feature of Expositions since the first Exhibition in London in 1851, and re-introduced in 2005 Aichi, were held on the penultimate day of the Expo, which wrapped up it's 3-month stint on the Korean peninsula on 12 August.

Australia was beaten by United Arab Emirates (Silver) and China (Gold) in the Creative Display category, with Germany winning Gold for Thematic Content.

For Foundation Expo '88's photo gallery on the Australia Pavilion and Expo 2012 Yeosu, visit